Sunday, April 17, 2011

Teen Thay Bhai Movie Review

Teen Thay Bhai Movie ReviewFilm: "Teen Thay Bhai"; Starring: Om Puri, Deepak Dobriyal, Shreyas Talpade; Directed by: Mrigdeep Singh Lamba; Rating: * 1/2

Some comedies mean well. But they lose their way in their noble intentions. "Teen Thay Bhai" seems like a terrific idea for a comedy. Three brothers separated more at mirth than by birth, trying hard to keep the spirit alive. They fail miserably, not for the want of trying.

The script here depends too much on extraneous trappings, too little on integral assets. There's no scarcity of acting talent here. Shreyas Talpade, Deepak Dobriyal and Om Puri shine in that order… Alas, they have no meat to sink their sharp teeth in. Often we see the actor groping and grappling with material that doesn't give them a chance to move beyond the immediate laughter of a situational comedy. Beyond the sound of current laughter there's no hereafter in the humour.

The static snowcapped location doesn't help either. The three principal actors seem as frozen in their efforts to rise above the stagnant humour as the snowy landscape in Jammu where veteran cinematographer Ashok Mehta tries desperately to find a centre in the meandering mirth.

The script has the seeds of an engaging satire. But the story never takes off. Minimalist props and background music don't help drive away the feeling of growing boredom that clutches at the throat of this vapid tale of three brothers who could kill each other with sibling friction and kill us with sheer boredom.

Towards the end, the plot shifts out a snow-strapped cottage into the outdoors where the brothers are assailed by hippy women who feed them with parathas filled with marijuana. By this time the script has completely run out of tricks to hold our attention. A climax with a giant steamroller as the villain is just about all that we are left looking at.

"Teen Thay Bhai" is like one of those books whose backflap synopsis offers us tempting insights into human nature. But by the time we settle down to the experience the plot has betrayed its own interests.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thank You Movie Review

Thank You Movie ReviewFilm: "Thank You"; Starring: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Irrfan Khan, Rimi Sen, Suniel Shetty, Celina Jaitley; Directed by: Anees Bazmi; Rating: ***Bow to the wow. Men, we are told, are dogs. They cheat on their wives. And have themselves the time of their lives. And the wives, poor creatures, are so devoted to their spouses they observe the Karva Chauth for their pati-devils even when they have no reason to do so. Such devotion in show motion.

"Thank You" is a kind of backhanded ode to the classic Indian wife we grew up watching in the films where the resplendent Nutan would sing "Tumhi mere mandir tumhi mere pooja" to her smug husband.

Times have changed. But mores and marital values have only shifted location. Inexplicably "Thank You" is shot in Canada. Caucasian girls steeped in a slutty splendour, fill up the fringes of the saturated frames. Blonde salad-dressing apart, the message at the heart of "Thank You" remains as desi as the Punjabi accent that Akshay Kumar doesn't even try to conceal.

Since this is a film about the perils of skirt-chasing there are plenty of women of all shapes and sizes in skirts (including Sonam Kapoor whose dress code defies all analysis) and other designer clothes.

For that talented writer Anees Bazmi the theme of infidelity in "Thank You" is familiar territory. In the past he has done jokey takes on men who can't keep their libido down with varying degrees of humour. A certain higher level of intelligence is perceptible in the way the characters are put out for scrutiny in the light of their unfaithful characters.

Irrfan Khan as the sarcastic bully of a husband scores the highest marks in the acting department. His wry caustic responses to semi-petrified wife Rimi Sen make a mocking mark mainly for the way the lines are written and delivered. Irrfan is priceless in projecting parody. Rimi Sen, an underrated actress, provides Irrfan valuable support.

Akshay Kumar plays the pied piper of the libido. He tries to teach the three womanizers how to check their carnal instincts. That is the best joke in the film. Such self-righteous cool roles of the social reformer are not new to Akshay. He delivers a rousing monologue at the end on the virtues of fidelity. While his comic timing remains sharp and spot-on it is the way he tries to create an aura of suspense about his character's motives as a man on a mission, that provides a cutting edge to the tale of three skirt-chasers.

Remarkably the dialogues remain free of innuendos. Surprising, considering how lurid films about infidelity have gotten in the past. The proceedings adhere to a sense of fun without getting cheesy. Suneil Shetty's body language and comic timing in some sequences show his coming of age as an actor of mirthful value.

"Thank You" has moments that come close to illuminating the underbelly of infidelity. But fearful of forsaking the mood of a riotous farce writer-director Anees Bazmi pulls out of any serious statement to lounge languidly in his comfort zone. As far as masala comedies go "Thank You" gets by on the strength of some smart writing, sassy dialogues and of course a handful of performers who try to balance out the lacklustre performances of other actors who, lethally for a comedy, just don't get it.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Game Movie Review

Game Movie ReviewFilm: "Game"; Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Kangna Ranaut, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Jimmy Sheirgil, Shahana Goswami, Gauhar Khan, Introducing Sarah Jane Dias; Directed by Abhinay Deo; Rating: *** 1/2

"What a story!" Abhishek Bachchan, playing a cross between a fugitive and a guardian-angel, says wrily at the end of this elegantly crafted whodunit.

What a story, indeed. And full marks to writer Althea Delmas Kaushal for crafting a jigsaw that would have made Agatha Christie smile. It wouldn't be incorrect to say, they don't make movies like this anymore. Stylishly crafted, cunning in plot and deft in its narrative thrust, "Game" is one of the most aesthetically-mounted Hindi films in recent times. Huge efforts and resources have gone into shooting the murder mystery in places where intrigue seems infinite, escape seems undesirable and redemption appears as distant as the sound of the waves splashing against rocks that have centuries of stories to tell.

Welcome to the Greek island of Samos. Anupam Kher, looking pricey in his tycoon's avatar invites four of the most distinguished elitist-outlaws on this side of Charles Sobhraj. Each has a past tense and a future imperfect. Everyone has a history and a back-projection. This is a world defined by a wealth of unexpressed resentment and smothered anger waiting to erupt.

Debutant director Abhinay Deo displays a remarkable grip over the proceedings. Though the narrative moves through a number of continents and exotic cities (Istanbul jumps out at us from the James Bond movies) propelling his tortured characters forward into motions of restless salvation, there is a quietude and grace at the heart of the narration that we've scarcely ever seen in desi whodunits.

The crime and its denouement are worked in graphic details. But the narrative is never bogged down by over-punctuation. For a crime thriller that pays a homage to the best traditions of the genre represented by Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and James Hadley Chase, there is a tightly-wound feel to the storytelling, as though the director were moving contrary to the dictates of the genre, without slipping up with the details. If god lies in the details then why does the devil seem to have taken over "Game"?

At heart "Game" is a love story about a high-profile gambler and his doomed lady-love…a kind of Bonnie and Clyde with the inherent desperation of the duo's togetherness reined-in and qualified by ripples of elegant punctuation.

No hiccups, then, in Abhinay Deo's directorial debut. Like all cinema by filmmakers who come from the ad-world "Game" is a visual feast. Contrary to films by other ad-turned-feature director Deo doesn't unnecessarily abbreviate the shots in the fear of losing audiences' attention. The characters, specially Abhishek Bachchan's, get sufficient breathing space in a script that favours flirting with fate.

There is a delicacy in the textures and colours used to bring forward the tensions in the plot. Shashank Tere's art direction and Kartik Vijay's cinematography imbue a gritty cold edge to the spill of blood and the smell of greed. The portions shot on the Greek island are particularly hypnotic, the splashing waves creating a ripple of anxieties in the turbulence of the characters' lives without toppling the storytelling boat over into the sphere of the stormy.

Whether it is Anupam Kher as tycoon-host on the mesmeric island or Gauhar Khan as his seductive secretary, the characters never cease to appear glamorous on screen. The performers are eminently watchable. Anupam Kher, Kangna Ranaut, Boman Irani, Shahana Goswami and the underrated Jimmy Sheirgil get the tenor of tantalizing terror right. Sarah Jane Dias is quite a find, though she needs to work on her dancing skills. Her fabulously choreographed dance number suffers from the Two Left Feet Syndrome (hint hint!).

Abhishek Bachchan proves once again a master of silences, his eyes conveying the pain of lost love, his lips curling up to convey the cynicism of a man who has seen it all and couldn't care anymore. His two key action sequences are heart-stopping in their credibility.

Waltzing wickedly between the incredible and the inevitable "Game" succeeds in sustaining our interest right till the devilish denouement at the end.

"Game" is a film that never lets us forget that the whodunit attains an enticing aura only when the characters assume framed postures. Abhinay Deo's narrative walks a fine thin bloodied balance between dread and delight.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Memories In March Movie Review

Memories In March Movie ReviewFilm: "Memories In March"; Cast: Deepti Naval, Rituparno Ghosh, Raima Sen and others; Writer: Rituparno Ghosh; Director Sanjay Nag; Rating; *** 1/2

Strangely, it is women who render themselves effectively to the cinema of loss and bereavement. Don't men suffer when they lose someone precious? In a subtle sly way, debutant director Sanjay Nag's "Memories In March" poses this question on gender attitude towards loss and tragedy.

In a script tenderly crafted by Rituparno Ghosh, Nag has a woman and a man locked together in the chamber of shared grief.

Memory and its deeply-reflective recollection after death are a recurrent leitmotif in Ghosh's films. In the Ghosh-directed "Sob Charitro Kalponik ", Bipasha Basu fell in love with her husband Prosenjeet after his death. In "Memories In March", which Ghosh has scripted, the mother discovers the dark side of her son who she thought she was very close to after his death.

Aarti Mishra (Deepti Naval), a no-nonsense divorcee from Delhi, arrives in Kolkata after her only son's sudden death in a car accident, to close the account of her son's life and pick up the son's remnants that would, perhaps, serve to sustain her for the rest of her life.

In Kolkata, Aarti meets a gentle middle-aged man Arnab (Ghosh) who turns out to be a close friend of her son...much closer than she, the mother, would have liked him to be.

The sequence on a steep staircase where the mother is told by her dead son's affable colleague (Raima Sen) that her son was in a gay relationship with Arnab, is expertly executed to eschew tears while milking the situation for its insinuated poignancy.

"Memories In March" is excellent at building individual moments of crisis and catharsis between characters during a time that's stressful beyond imagination for all concerned. However, the sum-total of the moments does not quite add up to that tremendous eruption of emotions that one would accept in a film about a mother's journey into her dead son's secret life.

Often the narrative holds back emotions, more to appear European in spirit than to be in character with the script. As played by Deepti, the mother is a portrait of restraint breaking down just once when no one is looking in an open refrigerator and that too with such furtive fury, you wonder if she's holding back the tears for a time when the camera doesn't pry.

The narrative's structure and its journey from crisis to reconciliation is so tentative that you wonder if this moving portrait of a mother coming-to-terms with her son's death and dark secret about his sexuality doesn't lose out on something vital in its effort to imbue a cosmopolitan hue to the emotions.

Having said this, the detailing of the emotions and the nuances inherent in the ambience cannot be faulted. The film creates a scintillating synthesis of suburban sounds and the intangible sound of hearts shattered by unforeseen tragedy. Incidental sounds, such as children running down the stairs of the dead son's apartment block, or the old-fashioned rickety lift creaking to a start at a decisive moment in the plot, lend a workaday grace to the poignant proceedings.

The time passages seem cramped, uneven and, lamentably unconvincing. The narrative crams in the mother's bereavement, acceptance of her son's homosexuality and her bonding with his gay lover in a fashionably condensed one-brief-moment-of-grief weekend. Again, a European affectation.

Soumik Haldar's cinematography and Debojyoti Mishra's music invite attention to themselves slightly more insistently than the characters who remain suspended in muted melancholy. At times you wish to push the proceedings to a higher octave, if for no other reason then to see if these internally-suffering characters can express their pain more forcefully.

"Memories In March" is a ball of impenetrable anguish that implodes once in while. When it does, the little shards of pain and hurt pierce your soul. The bond between two unlikely mourners, who become one in their collective grief, remains with you long after the last shot of a fish tank lying bereft and a voice message unattended after an irreversible tragedy.

This is a work of bridled pathos made remarkable by Deepti and Ghosh's delicately-drawn performances. If you enjoy cinema that provides emotional catharsis, this one is for you.
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